Take a look at the picture to the right. It's the just-announced Motorola Cliq, powered by Google Android and T-Mobile and scheduled to be released in time for the holiday season. Do you see that little green button down on the lower right corner of the screen? That's the dialer - you know, like, for a phone call.
Call these devices smartphones if you'd like - but increasingly, the phone part of the device is just another feature, another widget on the home page.
I talked to some of the attendees at the GigaOm Mobilize show yesterday, which is where Motorola and T-Mobile introduced the device, and a couple of them compared this device to the iPhone - no, not in the sense that this is finally the long-awaited iPhone killer. Instead, they see this type of device building on what Apple has been offering with the iPhone, a push away from the "phone" part of mobile device and more toward the apps - or widgets, as Motorola calls them.
One iPhone-carrying attendee told me that the majority of his time spent on the iPhone is through the apps - e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, banking, news"papers" and so on. The user-interface - the way you interact with the apps on the screen - is what's appealing, he said. (That, plus the AT&T voice service was hit or miss anyway.)
Motorola is trying to take that appeal a step further with MotoBlur, though. The idea behind the Cliq is that it's all right there in front of you - open already and running on the device's home page. No more having to find and open and close apps, the way you do on the iPhone. Because it's a Google device, you can expect that Google's most popular apps - GMail, Maps, Search - will be deeply integrated into the device, too.
And, of course, there's Twitter and Facebook. After all, you can't launch a device like this - which Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha called "The First Phone with Social Skills - and not have Facebook and Twitter built in. After all, these days, those are two of the biggest drivers of mobile data traffic -that, and email, of course.
Earlier this week, Facebook hosted a rooftop mixer for the tech press at its Silicon Valley headquarters to talk about what it's been doing in mobile. One of the most interesting st ats I heard at that event was that, among Facebook members, those with access to a mobile version spend twice as much time engaged in the Facebook on the site in it than someone who's only signing on from a PC. Think about that for a second. Twice as much time - because users can update their status from a red light. Yup, the mobility factor is defnitely huge.
Bottom line: Call them apps or widgets, but these are the drivers of the next-generation of smartphones.
And doesn't it feel kind of silly to keep calling them smartphones when the phone itself is just another app these days - and not even the most-used one, at that. I thought about just calling them "handhelds," as in "Has anyone seen my handheld?" but that didn't work for me, either. We definitely need a better name for this category,